Thursday, December 10, 2009

Robert Allan Hill Annual Report 2008 (Charge Conference, Asbury First UMC; and, Offices of the President and Provost, Boston University)

Charge Conference (Statistical) Report

Robert Allan Hill

Boston University

Dean of Marsh Chapel, Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Theology, and Chaplain to the University

January 1, 2008—December 31, 2008

  1. Dean of Marsh Chapel


1. Sunday Sermons and services: 47

Autumn Series (14): A Common Hope (Philippians)

2. Special Services 8

(ML King Observance, BU Baccalaureate, BU Matriculation, BU Alumni Weekend, This I Believe, Marsh Matriculation Service, Lesson & Carols (2x))

3. Guest Speaking 18

(White Fish Bay UMC, Park Ridge Ill UMC, Mass Council Churches, Hampshire House Boston, Hendrix College Arkansas, Conway Forum Arkansas, Londonderry UMC NH, BUSTH Worship, Lansing Michigan State Peoples Church, Boston Ministers’ Club, BU MultiFaith Dinner, Fort Worth Cattleman’s Club BUSTH General Conference, BU Academy School Mtg, Union Chapel Hampton NH, Echo Lake Inn Vermont, BU Islamic Society Rhamadan Dinner, South Asian 16 BU Student Groups Mumbai Memorial)

4. Meetings 482

(Regular 12: Marsh Staff, Marsh Advisory Board, Faculty BUSTH, Faculty Area A BUSTH, Worship BUSTH, Dean’s Council, University Council, University Leadership Group, University Council Student Life Committee, Religious Life Council, BU Chaplains, Bishop’s Boston Urban Initiative)

5. Visits 578

6. New Chapter Members Received 3

(Quigley, Hessler, Buchanan)

7. New Initiatives: a. Autumn program, term book, full packet provided for Advisory Council; b. Sunday Under Graduate Fellowship, Marsh Forum, Student Ministry; c. Completion of Marsh Staff Renewal; d. Ministry\L Whitney Initiatives (see his report); e. Music\S Jarrett Initiatives (see his report); f. R Bouchard\Hospitality Initiatives (esp E Fomby addition); g. Summer Choir (major addition\Palestrina Song of Solomon Motets); h. Motives Magazine (Marsh Annual Theological Journal); i. 9 Hill Receptions and Open Houses at ‘Deanery’ (96 Bay State Road #10)

8. Baptisms 4

(Henry Becker, Ben Owusu-Amo, Cameron Paul Mara, Kendall Bowen)

9. Weddings 18

(Brides: Karas, Skola, Williams, Ho, Rim, Wong, Ng, Simon, Hamel, Clinch, Ugarte, Lee, Phidej, Gruber, Hall, Czaporski, Paz, Lee)

10. Memorials 5

(Alan Stern, Albert Price, Michael Harrison, Nurell Jackson, James Nash)

  1. Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Theology


  1. Area A Monthly Faculty Meeting
  2. Full Monthly Faculty Meeting
  3. Worship Committee
  4. Annual Faculty Retreat NA
  5. 2008 Publications: 1. Sunday Sermons, BU website (Theme: Hope; New England Interlocutor: Commonwealth Avenue); 2/3. Two Books: Renewal (University Press); Preemption or Redemption? (Mellen); 4. Autumn Sermons Booklet: A Common Hope; 5. Sermon: Two Christmases, Lectionary Homiletics; 6. DeanHill’sBlog (; 7. Motives Article: Last Great Hope?
  6. General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, UMC
  7. GBHEM Study of Ministry Commission
  8. 2007-2009 Worship support & counsel for Karen Westerfield Tucker
  9. Fall BUSTH courses (2): Integration of Theology and Practice and The Gospel of John; Lemoyne (1): The Letters of Paul;
  10. World Council of Churches Commission on The Nature and Mission of the Church (monthly\Holy Cross).
  11. Receptions and Open House for BUSTH faculty at Hill Residence
  12. Elected to serve on search committee for new Academic Dean, BUSTH
  13. SUPE consultant\ Asian Ministry Consultation
  14. Member, ex officio, BUSTH Board of Overseers

  1. University Chaplain


1. Participant, BU Resolutions, BU Today 1

2. BU Today interviews, articles 2

3. BU Matriculation, Alumni Awards, Senior Bkfst, Retiree Luncheon, Commencement, Multifaith Dinner, and Baccalaureate prayers 7

4. Splash, and Religious Life Fair

5. Marsh Board of Advisors (29 persons), May, and October (see folder) 2

6. Pastoral Counseling 54

7. Committees: Deans’ Council, University Leadership Council and Group, Student Life Task Force,

8. Open Houses\Receptions in 96 Bay State Residence 9

(Staff, Parent’s Weekend, Theological School, Christmas Party, Oscars, other)

9. Student Deaths 2007/8 2

(Haley Morrill, Alan Stern)

9. Student Deaths 2008/9 1

(Alvaro Roccaro Giamporcaro)

10. 2\month Chaplains’ meetings; 2\month Religious Life Council (significant additional time investment)

15 General Comments

1. The year has gone smoothly, with many thanks to many people. The residence, 96 BSR 10, works well for us and for entertaining. The three part role seems to be just right (PPP). Entering interests named: national voice, Methodist ethos, excellent hospitality. 2. Current challenges: Re-development of Marsh programmatic ministries, with hopes for graduate, undergraduate and theological fellowship. 3. Completion of fall worship: 2006 Frostiana series, 2007 Kennedy series of sermons (available on web); 2008 Common Hope (Philippians and Commonwealth Avenue); 4. COMPLETION of Reorganization of staff and staff meetings (part 1) completed in 2006. Part 2 completed with one vacancy 2007. 5. Two publications in addition to sermons; numerical assessment of chapel web site (52nd of 400 BU web sites in number of ‘hits’). 6. Increasing pastoral counseling (sexuality issues, deployments to Iraq, vocation, relationship); Strategic Plan Conference, Provost and President. Articulation of Chapel mission: ‘our envisioned mission is to be a loving heart for BU, in the heart of the city, and to provide a vibrant worship service for BU, in the service of the city’. 7. Completion of Staff 8. Hence new fall program: Sunday Breakfast (40), Sunday Lunch (60), Monday dinner (50), Tuesday lunch (40), Dean’s Sunday Study (12), good growth in voice, vocation and volume. New National Summer Series 2007 and 2008, with Darwin Series for 2009. 9. Special Preaching 2008: BOUND FOR BOSTON? Worship at Marsh Chapel, Boston University, 735 Commonwealth Avenue, 617-353-3560. Special preachers for 2008 include: Dr. James Forbes (1/19/08--w\ Mass. Council of Churches); Dr Robert Cummings Neville (3/2/08 and 3/22/08); Rev. Floyd Flake (4/3/08--w\BU MLKing Commemorative Event); Rev. Stephen Cady (4/6/08); Rev. Mike McKee (7/6/08 and 7/13/ 08); Rev. Dr. Randy Day (7/20/08 and 7/27/08): Dr. Mark and Ms. Lynn Baker (8/3/08 and 8/10/08). Regular weekly services are at 11am Sunday, with Dean Robert Allan Hill, preaching, and the Marsh Chapel Choir, under the direction of Dr. Scott Allen Jarrett. 10. 50% of Sundays over 200 in worship: 11. BU Program on Clinch book, FINN. Monthly Boston Ministers’ Club 5/12. New Summer Choir; 13. Significant first level communications improvements (newsletter, web, newspaper, pew rosters, BU calendar, PR menu, Arts Boston, stewardship campaign). 12. 2008 Goals (see 2007 report) DONE: 2 books; 10 guest speaking; fall sermon series; Staff completion (the main accomplishment of 2008); 75 Marsh donors; 2009 Darwin Summer Preaching Series; Staff retreat; Young Adult Clergy Weekend. 13. 2008 Goals PARTLY DONE: John memorization; 2 University events; Marsh Chapter growth; 200 attendance; expansion of radio broadcast; increase to $100,000\yr chapter\chapel donor\other income (at $80,000 now, $46,000 in 2006). 14. 2009 (primary)Goals (fuller list available): a. $100,000 donor level; b. expansion of radio broadcast.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

No Place To Lay His head

No Place to Lay His Head

Matthew 8: 20

Asbury First United Methodist Church

March 2, 2003

Dr Robert A Hill

A Word of the Lord

In the exuberance of youth, a scribe comes to Jesus and throws in his lot with the disciples: “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus’ response is startling. No encouragement, no congratulations, no thanksgiving. Jesus rebukes the scribe by telling him how homeless the Christ is, in this world: “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”.

These words, dripping with nature imagery, cast in Aramaic grammar (“birds of the air”), proverbially arranged, and centering as they do on Jesus’ favorite self-reference, “the Son of Man”, surely come from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth. What a marvel, a miracle really, to hear his voice some 2000 years later! Yet, we know that we today need not only to hear what Jesus said, but also to know what this means for our life together. The verse “simply” reminds us that Christ is not at home in this world.

Loyalty Displaces Honesty

Christ is not at home in the lives of institutions, when people must forsake honesty for loyalty. The displacement of honesty by loyalty is inevitable in institutions. It goes with the territory. Of course, we must do our part to support meaningful, healthy institutions. It takes skill to run an institution: a family, a school, a church, a corporation, a government. But Christ is not always at home in institutions. Even—how painful this is—the church, for which Christ gave his life, sometimes places loyalty over honesty. I remember the old saw about and grandfather with his grandson at an ordination. They sat in the back of the large sanctuary; the boy slept for much of the service, but perked up when the Bishop began to lay hands on the candidates. As a hush fell, the boy whispered, “what are they doing with their hands on his head?” Grandpa crustily replied, “they’re taking out his spine”. Christ is not at home where loyalty displaces honesty.

Dreams Domesticated

Christ is not at home in a society that domesticates dreams. The relentless push for order in our society inevitably crushes dreams. When a dream dies, so does Christ. What happens to a dream deferred? Consider the case of Walter Lee Younger, who is building his life and dreaming his dreams on Chicago’s south side. He words as a chauffeur, but dreams of owing his own store. One morning, in the hectic breakfast hour, he tries to share his dream with his wife. She frowns on the plan, and they argue. In exasperation she says, “ Oh Walter, eat your eggs, they’re gonna be cold”. Walter says: “That’s it. A man says to his woman, ‘I’ve got a dream’. His woman says, ‘Eat your eggs’. A man says, ‘I’ve got to take hold of this world’. But his woman says, ‘Eat your eggs and go to work’. A man says, ‘I’ve got to change my life, I’m choking to death’. And his woman says, ‘Your eggs are getting cold’.” Says Walter, “Well damn my eggs…damn all the eggs that ever was!” That as you know is part of A Raisin in the Sun, a story of a dream deferred.

A Culture of Comfort

Nor is Christ at home in a culture focused on comfort. A towering Rochester hero, Christopher Lasch, wrote: “American youth culture is not a medium that initiates young people into adult life, nor even prepares them for it, but is a quasi-autonomous culture organized around the pursuit of fun and thrills.” Christ is not at home in that kind of mellow world. How could one who knew the cross conform to a world of comfort? Rather, we hear in his life the rhythms of Auden’s poem:

He is the Way

Follow him through the land of unlikeness;

You will see rare beasts and have unique adventures

He is the Truth

Seek him in the kingdom of anxiety

You will come to a great city that has expected

Your return for years.

He is the Life

Love him in the world of the flesh

And at your marriage all its occasions shall

Dance for joy.

Christ is not at home in the darkness of this world: to the extent that we are Christians we are homeless too. It is our job to remember this and to remind others. The Christian community’s joy is to point to…God…to confront a secular world with…God. We may not point well. In fact, we may be close to inept. But the pointing is what counts.

Forgotten Children

Christ is not at home in a time that forgets the littlest. Our Bishops wrote a wonderful paper a few years ago, “Children and Poverty”. At Asbury First we say “yes” to children in so many ways: Sunday School, Nursery School, Day Care, Scouting, Caring Center, Youth Group, Student Fellowship, and more. But children in our urban centers, children in the third world, children in pockets of hurt and poverty in many places—these littlest keep the Christ Sleepless, Roving, Wandering, Homeless. As Winston Churchill said, a culture is judged by how well it cares for the oldest and the littlest. How do we measure up?

Diplomacy Denigrated

Christ is not at home in a world that denigrates diplomacy. No wonder we serve such a sleepless Savior, nowhere to lay his head has he, when the great world around makes such little space for the wisdom of the serpent and the innocence of the dove.

In the 1990’s everything was negotiable. Today nothing is negotiable. Both denigrate diplomacy. Diplomacy is the art of balancing the one with the other.

In the 1990’s, as was regularly decried from this pulpit, everything was provisional, up for sale or rent. The long shadow of the White House of Never Ending Negotiation both reflected and shaped our culture. A night in the Lincoln Bedroom—negotiable. Daily routines and deadlines—negotiable. Land in Arkansas—negotiable. Fate of the welfare poor—negotiable. Use of the Oval Office—negotiable. Personal morality—negotiable. The definition of “is”, “good”, “sex” and other timely terms—negotiable.

Today the opposite is true. Nothing is for sale, but nothing is flexible either. The long shadow of the White House of Never Employed Negotiation, itself a creation of our revulsion at its predecessor, both reflects and shapes our culture. The goodness of lowering taxes—non-negotiable. The subservience of the environment—non-negotiable. The invasion of Iraq—non-negotiable. The daily time-table—non-negotiable. The death penalty—non-negotiable.

In Christ, as Paul says, all is Yes. In Adam, as Paul says, all is No. For us, upon this earth, in the ongoing invasion of Adam by Christ, Yes and No are bedfellows. This is what makes life so real and hard. It takes great balance to run a marriage, a family, a business, a church, a government, a world. It takes diplomacy. As John Kennedy said, in the presence of Robert Frost, on the happy day of Kennedy’s inaugural: “Let us never negotiate out of fear; but let us never fear to negotiate.” That is the kind of innocent wisdom and wise innocence that makes for a saving diplomacy.

Collateral Damage

Christ is not at home in a world collateral damage. I never will take for granted the regard of this congregation for the freedom of the pulpit. Most of you disagree, I know, with what I have said about the impending conflict with Iraq. Yet, you have graciously accepted what you cannot recommend, and you have graciously heard what you would not have said, and you have graciously protected what you would not have preferred. In my own ways, I will strive to measure up to your spiritual maturity in the years to come.

Once more: the opposition here voiced, over many months, to preemptory, unilateral, imperialistic, unpredictable military action continues. I have tried to show that such is outside the bounds of inherited Christian just war ethics. I have tried to argue that such is unreasonable when compared to the alternative of ongoing containment and potential retaliation. I have tried to calculate the consequences of first strike, non-multilateral, imperial invasion by one country of another. I have quoted Robert Kennedy, from another setting, that such would be “Pearl Harbor in reverse”.

What then do I say to the day that one of these terrorists further harms our people. They will. “We shall meet violence with patient justice”, and where we can bring justice, in response to attack, justice, in concert with the united nations, justice that is a republic in defense not an empire in expanse, justice that makes for peace, even when this justice, to be temporarily achieved, may tragically involve the utter horror of war, then, let us say, we may have to act. That is 1991 and that is Afghanistan. But this new war is somehthing else. Terror will continue. Our neighbor students died in Lockerbie, and that did not end it. The towers came down on 9/11 and that did not end it. Until a global tide of liberty and justice reaches the poorest moslem hamlet in the most hateful islamic nation, there will still be terror: to be met with patient justice.

Innocent Guilt

Christ is not at home in a world where the innocent are judged guilty, when the powerless innocent are judged by the powerful, to be guilty though they be innocent.

At the very end of my friend T L Butts funeral sermon for our former pastor Dr. Andrew Turnipseed, we are graced with these lines:

“Near the end of Nelle Harper Lee’s wonderful novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a touching and unforgettable scene. Jean Louise (Scout), young daughter of the courageous Atticus Finch, has persuaded her father to let her come to the courtroom to hear the verdict in the controversial case in which he is defending a black man. She chose to sit in the balcony with the black people. The inevitable “guilty” verdict is rendered. It is over. Atticus Finch gathers his papers, places them in his briefcase, and begins a sad and lonely walk down the center aisle to the back door. Scout hears someone call her name, “Miss Jean Louise?” She looks behind her and sees that all of the black people are standing ups as her father walks down the aisle. Then she heard the voice of the black minister, Rev. Sykes: “Miss Jean Louise, stand up, stand up, your father’s passin’.” Can you hear that? It begs to be heard.

Hope is the capacity to work for something not because it will succeed, but because it is good. Said Vaclev Havel 30 years before he had any success.

Good News: The Best of Company

The Sleepless Savior, the Roving Redeemer, the the Homeless Christ of this single sentence in our Holy Scripture—the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head—it is His presence and wandering on which you can rely when you also are sleepless, roving and homeless.

When you are crushed in institution life between honesty and loyalty—just there, not later when things get better, but right there—you have the best of company, the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head.

When you see your dream of a lifetime domesticated in the world’s blessed rage for order—just there, not later when things get easier, but right there—you have the best of company, the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head.

When you watch your teenagers swamped in a sea of material excess and you wonder just how well they will swim—just there, not later when they and you are more settled, but right there in the necessary anxiety of faithful parenting—you have the best of company, the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head.

When you see children, far or near, marginalized and underattended—just there, not when the kingdom comes in full, but right there in the mud—you have the best of company, the Roving Redeemer who also sits up at night with children.

When you worry about a world that turns a deaf ear to the poetry of diplomacy, as we do today—just here, not when all is well later, but right here in our concern we have the best of company, the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head.

When you lift your voice in sober concern about the collateral damage of war, as I do today, just here—not after the armistice, but right here, we have the best of company, Jesus Christ, who has no place to lay his head.

When you weep at the sight of the innocent judged guilty, so often the voiceless innocent judged by the powerful to be guilty—just there, not in the heavenly courtroom but right smack in earthly defeat—you have the best of company, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who has no place to lay his head.

Stand up, stand up, He is passing by…


My daughter, who will be married this summer, is one of the greatest joys of my life. When she was little and the weather was nice, we walked in the Cornell wild flower gardens. She was a calm sort, except when she happened to see a bird in flight. Then she would tug my hand, and stamp her feet, and point to the sky and call out…”booties, daddy, booties”. She got the word wrong, but the spirit she got just right. The gospel is the freedom of a bird in flight! (Barth). It is the pointing to God, whether we do it well or poorly, with the right words or not, it is the pointing that counts. Following afar off, we point to a Homeless Christ, faith pointing to God’s future: the reign of Jesus in the heart, the reign of justice in the world. Until that day, the Son of Man has no pl